Stardust’s Music Sounds Better With You is the perfect musical example of lightning being caught in a bottle. Originally released on 20 June 1998 as a single-sided 12-inch, it was Stardust’s only record, yet went on to sell over a million copies and has had a hold over countless electronic music fans and producers in the years since.
Its story starts in the mid-’90s when, following a chance meeting at a party, Alan Braxe played Daft Punk man Thomas Bangalter a demo of Vertigo, a track that would turn out to be his first single. Bangalter liked what he heard, and released the track on his Roulé label in 1997.
Following its launch, DJ duo Jess & Crabbe invited Braxe to play a live gig at the Rex Club in Paris, and Braxe asked Bangalter to join him on keyboards for the occasion. He also enlisted Benjamin Diamond, an old friend from boarding school, to add vocals to the set, putting the pieces of what would eventually become Stardust into place.
A decision was made to compose a new track for the performance, taking a loop from Chaka Khan’s 1981 R&B hit Fate as its hook. Following the show, and sensing they were onto something, the trio headed for Bangalter’s studio.
“The E-MU SP 1200 [sampler] was full with the Chaka Khan sample, so the drums were from a Roland TR-909 drum machine and the bassline from a Korg Trident,” Alan Braxe told Future Music in 2012. There's also a Rhodes piano in there, but you can barely hear it."
"Then we used the Ensoniq ASR-10 as a sort of computer and put the different sections of the track on different keys, triggering it to make the arrangement for the instrumental. Benjamin Diamond recorded the vocals, which were compressed with an Alesis 3630. Plus, we used another 3630 compressor on the master bus of the entire track. And that was it."
Music Sounds Better With You quickly became an anthem on the French underground club scene, spreading across Europe and into North America. Its progress was helped by a Michel Gondry-directed video, which became an MTV staple.
For Stardust, though, that was it, despite rumours that they were offered huge sums to produce a complete album. "We did about five or six demos as Stardust after Music Sounds Better With You but we decided it would be much cooler to just keep it as a single record,” says Braxe. “I think it gives the record a certain magic and mystery."
Those demos have never seen the light of day, and Braxe doesn’t believe that they will. What’s more, the Stardust mystique has been maintained by Music Sounds Better With You’s absence from streaming services.
That’s about to change, though: this Friday, (28 June) a remastered version of the track will be reissued on limited edition etched vinyl and made available to stream for the first time. 21 years on, Music Sounds Better With You is gunning for ‘sound of summer’ status once more, as the Stardust story continues.